Born January 1, 1930, Frederick Wiseman has long-since secured his place in the history of cinema with his extensive observational studies of institutions and work places. Now in his 90s, he’s made his first fiction film, at 64 minutes a vignette, based on the letters and diaries of Sophia Tolstoy, and her (off-screen) husband, Leo. It was the latter who penned the famous opening sentence “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” but it was his amanuensis, Sophia, who copied the phrase multiple times for publication. Leo talked a good game about love, equality, and spirituality, but Sophia (who bore him 13 children) had a unique perspective on her genius husband’s personal failings, as Wiseman puckishly illustrates.
An expressive and moving portrait of a tempestuous marriage, one told with elan that feels rich in feeling.
Leslie Felperin, Hollywood Reporter
Nathalie Boutefou is superb…a shrewd character study. A belletristic homage to the most famously unhappy marriage in literary history…thoroughly intelligent… A valuable and insightful portrait.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
Nov 25: The short film It’s What Each Person Needs (Sophy Romvari, Can, 2022) (11 min) will play before both screenings.
Frederick Wiseman, Karen Konicek
Frederick Wiseman & Nathalie Boutefeu